Monday, July 29, 2013

I really wasn’t going to heap on poor Leslie Cohen Berlowitz

I really felt that I had exhausted my interest in and ability to blog about Bad Business Behavior, Résumé Inflation Division. Didn’t I say everything I needed to say, way back in the olden days, when I wrote about MIT Dean of Admission Merilee Jones and her less-than-honest c.v.?

But it may be precisely because of the Merilee Jones incident – which happened over six years ago – and the subject and object lessons that her sad case should have taught everyone, that I think Leslie Cohen Berlowitz deserves special mention. And a boot in the rear, which is what the American Academy of Arts and Sciences gave her the other day.

Not familiar with Leslie Cohen Berlowitz?

Well, neither was I.

But I am passingly familiar with the American Academy, which I have tromped by on many a walk through Cambridge, always with a wistful glance up the hill at it’s beautiful building and lovely grounds. If only greatness had been american-academy-of-arts-and-sciences-officethrust upon me, I could’ve been a contender, up there with this year’s newbies – an illustrious group that includes cartoonist Roz Chast and Bruce Springsteen. Sigh.

Since its founding in 1780, the American Academy has served the nation as a champion of scholarship, civil dialogue, and useful knowledge.

As one of the nation’s oldest learned societies and independent policy research centers, the Academy convenes leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to address critical challenges facing our global society.

Well, while I’m a big fan of both of them, I don’t quite see how Roz or Bruce fit into the academic, business, and government sectors, but there is quite of list of Humanities and the Arts folks who are among the 4600 fellows.

Anyway, up until the other day, Ms. Berlowitz was The Academy’s chief executive.

Berlowitz got the booty in her booty for having:

…falsely claimed a doctorate from New York University and misstated her work history in federal grant applications and other documents over the past decade. (Source: Boston Globe.)

Berlowitz was allowed to resign, but other than her accrued vacation, deferred comp, and retirement benefits – which amounted to a nifty $475K payout – she did not get any severance package. But at her salary level:

… more than $598,000 in fiscal 2012 alone for an organization with only three dozen staffers.

She should be able to max out her unemployment benefits!

She may need them for her legal bills. The Massachusetts AG is looking into her executive perks, and the feds are investigating any federal grants that were given when everyone thought it was Doctor Leslie Cohen Berlowitz to you, bub. (Berlowitz denies that she ever claimed to have received her doctorate, but it seems pretty incredible that she never noticed it on any documentation over the years and corrected someone else’s error.)

Résumé inflation aside, Berlowitz was widely regarded as just awful to work for.

I know, I know, you have to take anonymous reviews on Glassdoor with a grain of something-or-other. Still, the comments from employees/ex-employees were almost uniformly savage about Berlowitz.

Under the “cons” of working at The Academy, one wrote: 

Executive Officer = primary “Con.” Condescending, Convoluted, Condemning, Contemptuous, Controlling, Congenial – no wait,, how did that get in there? And now, with the current news of falsified degrees, I guess “CON” itself may be applicable.

Another wrote:

I personally experience visceral disgust whenever I pass the Academy grounds. I am a successful survivor of the Norton Woods [Academy location in Cambridge], and I take very seriously the moral import of the words I am using in this review. The nightmarish interhuman reality at the Academy is directly attributable to the culture of intimidation and belittlement that the CEO narcissistically perpetuates in the name of high standards and commitment to the mission.

So I take it she won’t be missed by the employees.

While she may have been a beast of a boss, Berlowitz was not without her accomplishments. One was co-editing a volume entitled Restoring Trust in American Business.

Embroidering your résumé?

Not exactly a very smart way to go about restoring trust.

Wednesday is Berlowitz’s last day at the Academy of Arts and Scientists.

George Washington was one of the original members off the Academy.

Wonder if Berlowitz has a farewell to the troops planned?


Rick said...

I'm surprised it took so long for them to "let her resign." There were stories out almost two months ago in the Globe about her phony resume, first class only travel, and other issues.

Anonymous said...

I worked for her in the 90s at NYU. She was a monster. I believe everything the glassdoor correspondents say and then some.